11 November 2023 :
November 8, 2023 - Jan. 25 execution date for Kenneth Eugene Smith using the new execution method of nitrogen hypoxia.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday announced a Jan. 25 execution date for Kenneth Eugene Smith using the new execution method of nitrogen hypoxia. Smith was 1 of 2 men convicted in the 1988 murder-for-hire slaying of Elizabeth Sennett.
A divided Alabama Supreme Court last week granted the state attorney general’s request to authorize Smith’s execution. It is the responsibility of the governor to set the exact execution date.
The announcement moves Alabama closer to becoming the 1st state to attempt an execution by nitrogen gas, although there will likely be additional legal wrangling over the proposed method. Nitrogen hypoxia has been authorized as an execution method in Alabama, Oklahoma and Mississippi, but no state has used it.
Nitrogen makes up 78% of the air inhaled by humans and is harmless when inhaled with proper levels of oxygen. Under the proposed procedures, a mask would be placed over the inmate’s nose and mouth and their breathing air would be replaced with nitrogen, depriving them of the oxygen needed to stay alive. The nitrogen “will be administered for 15 minutes or 5 minutes following a flatline indication on the EKG, whichever is longer,” according to the execution protocol.
Prosecutors said Smith and another man were each paid $1,000 to kill Elizabeth Sennett by her husband Reverend Charles Sennett, who was in deep debt and wanted to collect on insurance. He killed himself a week after his wife's death, when the murder investigation started to focus on him as a suspect. John Forrest Parker, the other man convicted in the killing, was executed in 2010.
The Smith case receives a lot of media attention, not only because of the 'novelty' of the new method of execution, but because the man last year survived an attempted execution, which the state had carried out on 17/11/2022 (see HoC on that date). That execution was halted after officers had been fumbling on Smith's arms for over an hour trying to insert the 2 catheters that the law requires for executions by lethal injection, but failing to do so.